I am dedicated this summer to the task of creating space for a new decor in one of our rooms, and in order for that to happen, I have been emptying out shelves, primarily of books, that have been in place for the over 30 years we have lived here. Those shelves have borne the weight of many of my last lives–the parenting years, the newly Christian feminist years, the start-up ministry years, along with representations of an eclectic array of other interests, quilting, poetry, drama, memoirs, art. They are accompanied by years of journals., annals of reflection and activities that occupied my thinking and musing over those various years of reading and living. In dislocating all of them, I am asking myself questions: will I ever read this again? does it interest/intrigue/inspire my present day journey and way of being? could someone else use this more than I can ? Can I let these things go?
My six year old grand-daughter is completely enthralled with the Disney movie “Frozen,” the centerpiece of which is the song, “Let it Go!” I watched with gleeful amazement as 15 little girls lip-synched this anthem from the bottom of their hearts at her birthday party. What does it mean for a six-year old to “let it go?” The movie seem to point them toward individual freedom, claiming identity, ignoring bullying behavior–all worthy goals. But for me in a much later era of life, I have to ask a thicker question: how much of what I have acquired do I need to let go of in order to be faithful all the rest of days of my life?
Some of it can be evident as I empty my shelves. Address books that memorialize people long gone, with addresses a decade or more out of date, can surely be left behind. Books whose perspectives are no longer representative of where I have arrived do not need to be carefully stored. And, more importantly, as I pack, sort and toss, what beliefs and commitments do I uncover that are no longer useful? They may have served me very well at a particular turning point in my life, but I no longer need to hang on to them tenaciously and loudly: I can let them go. I can remember times when I was more than willing to debate and to argue about behaviors and actions that seemed to me to be critical, essential, if one were to define herself as a person of faith. Now as I have let Grace have its way with me in my consciousness, and invite it to make clear my unconscious, I don’t have to leap into the fray of opposing viewpoints too readily. The Mystery of Grace has taught me to slow down, to open my senses to the multitudinous ways that the Spirit works in individuals, in communities, in the world. I no longer need to defend my way, of even the way of my community, as the only way to be honest, true and right. I have clear convictions, am called to speak out for justice and mercy, both, but I can let go of my shrill, frantic clinging to the way it used to be, or to the way that suits me, or the way that I have always imagined it.
When I was about 9, I memorized a verse from Philippians 3:12 (among many others, for a prized Bible in Vacation Bible School!): forgetting what is behind, and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. At that tender age, I had little clue to the practices of discernment, the regular practices of learning, the power of a faith community, that that kind of forgetting and pressing on would require. However, I was taking steps on to a faith journey that would bring me closer and closer to the heart of the Holy One. It is the trust that the One who began this good work in me will continue it as long as I live and breathe.
So I go back to sorting and packing, and as I let go of tangible evidence of places I have been, I let them go knowing that what they brought to me has been used, and that what I need will be provided.
This word from C.S. Lewis came to me this morning: There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind. I believe it, with each box I send away!